Nothing else’ – activists scale vast deep sea mining vessel as governments meet to discuss fate of seafloor

Rotterdam, The Netherlands – As world governments gather to discuss whether to allow deep sea mining to go ahead, Greenpeace activists have scaled a vast 228m deep sea mining vessel in Rotterdam port preparing for mining trials next year.

Twenty activists from Greenpeace Netherlands, Greenpeace Germany and Greenpeace Switzerland approached the towering vessel, starkly named Hidden Gem, by water this morning and scaled its sides to deploy a banner reading ‘No Deep Sea Mining’. The huge Swiss-owned drilling ship, which is longer than two football fields and wider than four double-decker buses laid end to end, is in port to receive extensive renovations believed to make it the world’s first vessel to be classified as a sub-sea mining vessel by the American Bureau of Shipping.[1] The work is being carried out in partnership with Canadian firm The Metals Company (formerly DeepGreen), who plan at-sea trials in 2022.

Speaking from Rotterdam, Greenpeace Netherlands activist Samuel Gosschalk said:

“The scale of this thing is just huge. Make no mistake, this monster machine is built for profit: nothing else. It’s not for delicately exploring the seafloor – it’s for profit at the expense of nature. We know more about the surface of the moon than about the seafloor and we’re still discovering new species in the deep ocean, but these companies just see dollar signs down there. If we don’t act now we risk signing away the fate of the largest ecosystem on Earth to a handful of companies whose only interest is monetising them. It’s environmentally destructive, economically unproven and politically toxic. We need to stop deep sea mining before it begins.”

Meanwhile, governments are meeting at the International Seabed Authority (ISA) in Jamaica this week to discuss opening up the seafloor to mining in less than two years’ time.[2] The starting pistol was fired by Pacific island state Nauru in June 2021, backed by The Metals Company, which previously shocked other nations by speaking on behalf of the Nauruan Government at ISA meetings.[2] There is growing opposition to deep sea mining from governments, communities and companies. Campaigners and scientists say allowing deep sea mining to start would be catastrophic for seafloor ecosystems and the health of the ocean, including potential species extinctions and disruptions to carbon storage, worsening the climate crisis.

Louisa Casson, Ocean Campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said:

“The deep sea mining industry is out for a fast buck and they’re happy for the rest of us to pick up the environmental bill. But they know how risky and unproven this all is – that’s what’s so galling about it. Scientists say it could cause severe and irreversible damage to the biggest ecosystem on Earth, it could wipe out species, it could worsen the climate crisis. So why would governments let it begin in under two years’ time, just because some companies are pushing for it? The ocean belongs to all of us and we all depend on it. There’s too much at stake to let this happen. We need to stop deep sea mining from ever starting and we need a Global Ocean Treaty that puts huge swathes of the ocean off-limits to harmful human activity.”

The last deep sea mining trials in the Pacific Ocean resulted in the loss of control of a 25-tonne mining machine, leaving it stranded on the seafloor before a retrieval operation could be mounted.[3]

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